Monthly Archive for April, 2015

Strengthen your spirit and watch how high you soar

Do you know what a jet fighter is?  If you said airplane, you’re only half right.  In the strict nomenclature, a jet fighter is actually a weapons platform. Its job is to deliver ordinance to a target, not to fly the pilot around.

In that sense, the human body - his vessel of protoplasm we drive around - is not really what a human is. It’s actually a delivery platform for the will of our spirit; the true life force that is who we really are.

One of the things I have observed about humans is that we often don’t understand, and therefore tend to under-employ, the power of our spirit. We seem so obsessed with the body that we don’t spend enough time contemplating the presence and power of the spirit.

Someone once told me how little of our brain’s power we actually use.  I don’t remember the percentage, but I do remember it was astonishingly low.  I wonder if there is a connection between under-usage of the brain and limited awareness of the spirit.

Author and philosopher, Colin Wilson, wrote, “We possess such immense resources of power that pessimism is a laughable absurdity.” The power he’s talking about is that of the spirit.

Pessimism can’t be overcome by our bodies. Dealing with frustration and overcoming disappointment are both tasks performed way above the pay-grade of protoplasm. If you are a small business owner you either already understand this, or are acquiring that understanding a little more every day.

I’ve been a small business owner for a long time and have observed others far longer. I can’t imagine how any of us could do what we do without a strong spirit.  The challenge is to become more aware of our spirit and flex it - like a muscle - to our advantage.

A consumption tax is bad for America and worse for America’s small businesses

If not already, you’ll soon hear about two consumption tax alternatives to accomplish tax reform: a value-added tax (VAT), and the “Fair Tax,” which is a national sales tax.
VAT is added to products incrementally in the steps of the production/distribution process and passed to consumers in the ultimate price. The oxymoronic Fair Tax is collected from the end user at the point of sale, like state and local sales taxes. Both are bad ideas.
As major tax reform has been lately debated, in addition to tinkering with the current system or replacing it with a flat tax, politicians on both sides of the aisle have proposed consumption tax options. And they will be part of the 2016 presidential campaign debates.
SmallBusinessEconomyFiscally, the attraction of a consumption tax is that, in the largest consumer economy on the planet, it would raise a lot of tax revenue. Politically a consumption tax raises revenue on the rich more appropriately and, even though it’s regressive for the poor, they would receive some kind of a federal rebate or credit.

Consider these reasons why either consumption tax is a bad idea:

  • We know that the big spending party is the one in the majority. So without imposing strict fiscal discipline - like a balanced budget amendment - a consumption tax will give politicians more money without solving budget deficits or national debt challenges.
  • Most European countries have collected consumption taxes for years, and yet they continue to have significant economic/fiscal challenges.
  • European consumption taxes are on top of all other taxes, including income tax.
  • All European consumption tax percentages started small, but today the average is 19% - again, in addition to income tax.

A consumption tax would also hurt small businesses disproportionately. Big businesses have systems in place to deal with new government compliance, like tax collection, and they ALWAYS pass along expense increases to customers. Small businesses will be harmed because:

  • We aren’t always able to pass along cost increases, even a mandated VAT.
  • New tax compliance and remittance will be prohibitively expensive.
  • The sticker price of a national sales tax will take time for consumers to adjust to, which will hurt small businesses more.

The only way we should consider any kind of a consumption tax is if it completely replaces the federal income tax, which would require repealing the 16th Amendment. Good luck with that because in the 227 years since the Constitution was ratified, only one amendment has ever been repealed - and that was to end prohibition.

Write this on a rock … A consumption tax is a bad idea, especially for America’s small businesses.

Listen first, speak second

Perhaps the two most important things salespeople can understand is:

1. The information in their own head is not as important as the yet-to-be-mined information in their prospect’s head

2. Knowing how to talk little enough and listen long enough, to be able to mine that gold

The lesson is similar for small business owners who’ve gone to a lot of trouble and expense to hire smart employees. We already know what we know; we need to know what’s in the heads of the members of our brain trust.  We need our folks to be open and productive with their ideas about problem-solving and business strategy.

How do we do that?  Not by behaving like we’re sitting on our throne with all the answers, that’s for sure. Instead, let’s consider the thinking of author and management guru, Peter Drucker, who said, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant, and ask a few questions.”

I know you’re very proud of what you’ve learned and how much you’ve accomplished; and you should be.  But if your business isn’t hitting on all cylinders; if your plans just aren’t coming to fruition like you intended; if you don’t seem to be getting the most out of your investment in the other humans in your business; perhaps you should try acting ignorant and ask a few more questions.

And don’t forget to listen.

And thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.

The gold mining tool of professional salespeople

A few decades ago a 27-year-old, shiny, new Xerox sales representative was minted.

Already a sales veteran, it wasn’t his first rodeo. Indeed, he worked his way through college selling on commission.

Commissioned salespeople, like entrepreneurs, work the marketplace high wire. Observing this act, a salaried employee once remarked that commission selling was “living by your wits.” In the vernacular, business-to-business sales professionals know, “You eat what you kill.”

Starting out this salesman received rubber-meets-the-road sales training from the small business owner who gave him his first commissioned sales job. Then there was a six-year stint with Sears, where he first received sophisticated sales training.

But in those days, Xerox Professional Selling Skills was recognized globally across all industries as the sales training gold standard. Consequently, becoming a Xerox salesperson wasn’t easy and, once achieved, was a big deal at that career moment and an invaluable influence for the rest of your life.

Not long out of the Xerox classroom, our young salesman called on the local installation of a national manufacturing firm. His head was packed with product, pricing and strategy. Plus, he was now a fully converted, Kool-Aid-drinking disciple of the world-class Xerox sales fundamentals. And so it was that on this particular day, sitting in the office of Mr. Keener, the plant accountant, any listening skills and probing techniques he had learned were no match for the cargo of content that was determined to be dumped right there on Mr. Keener’s desk.

Mr. K was a tall, stern and stoic journeyman manager whose gray hair was not premature. He suffered no fools - gladly or otherwise - and took no prisoners. But for longer than most would have expected he allowed himself to be the victim of what was no less than a sales assault. Finally, he stood up and stretched his arm toward the Xeroid in front of him as a way to move the proceedings toward the door, whereupon he demonstrated his rapier wit with, “Well, Jim, you’ve certainly given me the business.”

Now you know, I was that sales assaulter. And my memory includes standing outside Mr. Keener’s office with his words detonating in my brain. In a career-defining moment of self-analysis and clarity I turned and knocked on Mr. K’s door again. Assuming my most contrite and chastened countenance I said, “Mr. Keener, I’m sorry about what just happened. May I please start over?”

To which he said, “Hello, Jim - come in and let’s talk about business.”

Those two sentences - one to haul me up short and one to redeem me - are the ones I remember more often than thousands of selling interactions since. By the way, Mr. K and I did business for years afterwards.

Write this on a rock … The gold mining power tool of successful professional salespeople is the ear, not the mouth.




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